German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2050
Fax: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2055 / 7404 5573


calendar & information

Breadcrumb navigation:


The English Historical Review

"The high quality of the edition, including an annotated index of names and subjects, contribute to a very valuable collection of sources which will be welcomed by all historians interested in Anglo-German perceptions and in the history of diplomatic services in the nineteenth century. The edition of the following volumes is eagerly awaited."

Jörn Leonhard in The English Historical Review, Vol 117, Issue 470, February 2002, pp 208-09

"This volume and series will constitute a lasting and central resource for British, German and European historians, and should also be a reference work for those working in diplomatic history and international relations. The German state system, the Confederation, formed an intricate mechanism central to the European balance of power established in 1815. The Confederation reflected a view of international relations and the European political landscape which rested upon principles predating nationalism. As a result it has attracted more attention recently with the rise of multi-ethnic and regional political units and, among German historians, against the backdrop of German reunification and the reappearance of the Saxon and Prussian ghosts. With respect to such subjects, the British envoys’ dispatches will provide a wealth of insight and stimulation to reflection. The German Historical Institute and the Royal Historical Society should be praised for recapturing and making accessible a truly monumental resource."

John R. Davis in The English Historical Review, Vol 123, Issue 502, June 2008, pp 774-5

 "The volumes are an indispensable and monumental source for German and British historians alike, whether students, researchers or teachers. For German historians, there is comment about constitutional, legal, economic, commercial and cultural developments. Given the British slant, the dispatches also have historiographical resonance within discussion of German adherence to Anglo-American political models. The voices of German politicians and monarchs are conveyed to London, and with them the myriad of perspectives and concerns of the states within the Germanic Confederation. For the British historian, the reports shed light on the information digested by the Foreign Office, and help analysis of the decision-making process regarding Germany and Europe during the Palmerstonian years.”

John R. Davis in The English Historical Review, Vol 128, Issue 535, December 2013, pp 1607-9

German History

These reports capture the nuance and ambivalence that British envoys heard every day in their conversations with impact players in the worlds of German politics. The envoys penetrated beneath the sneers and crotchets that ricocheted between Germans themselves to discern the more tangible prospects that usually lay hidden from view. As a result, and without recourse to the notion of an unbridgeable Anglo– German antagonism, which appeared much later, we can now better understand the myriad reasons, including hellish ones, for such intense British interest in Germany. Central Europe held a fascination for British envoys in the nineteenth century because it was embroiled in multi-dimensional struggles to avoid, to reverse or—in Bismarck’s case—actively to foment a ‘national’ revolution. Seen from inside, seen from afar, preunification Germany now looks quite different from how it seemed not so many years ago. English diplomats discerned little evidence that Prussia would emerge victorious from the power struggles that shook the continent. […] But this splendid edition has added one more nail to the coffin of the original Sonderweg theory. Germany was ‘special’—indeed—but so were its constituent parts. Despite the unique ways in which the French and industrial revolutions shaped its history, Germany was not following a single path toward modernity. For uncovering new dimensions of ‘German’ history before Germany existed, and by showing why the Sonderweg concept would have seemed ridiculous to contemporary observers, the editors of British Envoys to Germany deserve our sincere gratitude.

James Retallack, Reform or Revolution? British Envoys to Germany and the Culture of Diplomacy, 1816–1905 [review article], in German History Vol 31, No 4, pp 550–78, here 577-8


"The series [...] will be a highly useful reference point for teachers and researchers of Anglo-German relations, and nineteenth-century British, German and diplomatic history"

John R. Davis in History, Vol 87 (2002), p 624

Albion. A quarterly Journal concerned with British Studies

"The documents selected for this volume make for fascinating reading. Even when the envoys turn to such matters as the postal system, trade fairs, and accounts of royal marriages and deaths, they are engaging. When they deal with the pressing issues of the day such as constitutionalism, revolution, freedom of the press, religious toleration, to name just a few, they are truly provoking. […] The dispatches vary in their tone and content depending on place and as such they reveal a remarkably diverse Germany. […] That said, this is a superb volume; intelligently and carefully put together, it is a must read for all historians of nineteenth-century Europe."

John K. Severn in Albion. A quarterly Journal concerned with British Studies, Vol 35/2 (2003), pp 323-24

European History Quarterly

"… it enables the reader to picture more clearly how developments in the German states appeared to, and were followed by, the envoys extraordinary and through them, the makers of British foreign policy in London. As a consequence this collection provides the modern-day historian with a rare set of published contemporary English-language commentaries, covering events in Germany in the immediate period after the Congress of Vienna. […] It is this more factual, official view of pre-Unification Germany, as seen through various British eyes, which is presented here. This volume serves as a substantial appetizer for the forthcoming second instalment covering the longer period of 1829-1866 [in three volumes], during which the Industrial Revolution really began to take off in Germany, and the different German states began to move more quickly towards their unification. For this reason alone, the second volume will be eagerly awaited by those who value the contribution made here by the first, giving us an insight into the early development of a nation which would go on to play such an important part in the history of the twentieth century."

Owain James Wright in European History Quarterly, Vol. 33/2 (2003), pp 269-72.


"In identifying and making accessible this material the series serves a very valuable function in helping to refine understandings of Anglo-German relations during a crucial period. […]  The letters are usefully, accurately, and clearly annotated and indexed (and this may be supplemented by reference to the excellent on-line combined index for all four volumes). As such, this edition is an invaluable resource for studies of British perceptions of German affairs and will satisfy the needs and interests of most students of the subject. It is good news, therefore, that the project is now to be extended, and we can look forward to similar volumes focused on the reports of British Envoys to the Kaiserreich."

David Brown in European History Quarterly, Vol. 43/2 (2013), pp 382-84.


Historical Journal

"It must surely be a costly enterprise, but will eventually become the kind of reference book generations of historians have to take into account if they want to understand the processes which led from the German Federation to the German Empire. To see these events through British spectacles gives one a fresh angle on inner German developments and it also reveals a lot about the British approach to other countries. The decision the editors have to make in selecting the most interesting out of a vast quantity of sources is of course always a difficult one. That today's scholars are not simply interested in political dispatches but, for example, want to know more about the crime statistics of German cities, has been taken into account. The result is a well balanced selection that will probably please political, social, economic and military historians as well."

Karina Urbach in Historical Journal, 46,4 (2003)


"The editors have done a marvellous job in selecting from the voluminous and wordy contributions as well as in introducing the sources to the reader, and in providing reports from Frankfurt, Prussia, the Hanse towns, Hanover, Saxony, Württemberg, Bavaria, and Austria. [….]The benefit of the edition of British envoy reports to the German lands lies in providing considerable and subtle evidence of the diplomatic elite’s views of liberalism and democracy, constitutional reform, and the nation state in Germany. The envoys’ reports provide substantial evidence that British Victorian elites were far less open to continental liberal-democratic reforms than a German Sonderweg view might still suggest. In this respect, the view from abroad might serve to widen horizons and interpretations of the historical place of the connections and images evoked by the revolutions of 1848 as a European phenomenon."

Christian Müller  in Historical Journal, 53,1 (2010), pp 241-2


"The colloborative enterprise of London's German Historical Institute and the Royal Historical Society to publish hundreds of envoys' reports from Germany in the period 1830-47 constitutes a significant contribution to the era's research apparatus. Editors Markus Moesslang, Sabine Freitag, and Peter Wende have done a superb job editing and annotating the volume. The introduction offers a cogent analysis of the principal themes; the subject index is thorough and thematically subdivided; and the annotated index of names is a trove of biographical information on both the famous and obscure in the Vormärz period. We have here a first-rate research tool. No mention is made of a third volume for the Revolution of 1848/49, which might have been the logical conclusion to this volume, and the remaining decades of the Confederation, but one hopes that this important third volume is in the making. [...] In conclusion, this volume and its companions are highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate seminar work. It deserves to be a standard work in every reference library."

Reviewed for H-German by James M. Brophy, University of Delaware, 24 February 2004

[full review]

The International History Review XXVI

"But the reports in this volume are full of interest. They represent the thoughts of generally well-informed British diplomats, often with a deeper understanding of what was happening than many Germans possessed. Beyond immediate crises, accounts of the cholera and of arrangements for poor relief, the reports provided perceptive insights into the likely future of Germany. In the light of the momentous changes of the next generation and the move to unification under Prussian auspices, what was written in the 1830s and 1840s takes on a special significance and value."

John Clarke on volume II in The International History Review XXVI. I: March 2004, pp 143-45


"Insgesamt handelt es sich um eine wertvolle Quellensammlung sowohl für die Heranführung von insbesondere britischen und amerikanischen Studierenden an die Arbeit mit Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte als auch für die Forschung. Die Vielfalt der deutschen Staatenlandschaft und die Mühen der Staaten des Bundes, in praktischen, etwa handelspolitischen Fragen, Interessenkonflikte zu überwinden und gemeinsam das Gesamtinteresse zu definieren, erhalten durch den Filter zeitgenössischer britischer Berichte eine interessante Nuance und im Hinblick auf die Schwierigkeiten, auf europäischer Ebene gemeinsame Nenner zu finden, auch eine vielschichtige historische Relevanz."

Matthias Schulz in sehepunkte 4 (2004), Nr. 6 [15.06.2004]

[full review]

"Der so vermittelte britische Blick auf den Deutschen Bund ist daher nicht nur von politikgeschichtlicher Relevanz, sondern ist auch für diejenigen Leser lohnend, die sich für Kulturtransfer, für Ideengeschichte oder für das Leben und Wirken von Diplomaten im neunzehnten Jahrhundert interessieren. Die vielseitige Benutzbarkeit des vorliegenden Bandes ist neben den aufschlussreichen Quellen vor allem der hervorragenden Editionsqualität geschuldet. Die Herausgeber haben aus der Unmenge von Berichten eine überzeugende Auswahl getroffen und die einzelnen Quellenstücke hilfreich kommentiert. Ein ausführliches Personenregister und ein Sachregister ermöglichen einen bequemen Zugriff auf Einzelaspekte der vorgelegten Texte. [...] Wer sich fortan mit der internationalen Geschichte Europas in der Revolutionsepoche, mit der britischen Europapolitik im neunzehnten Jahrhundert oder mit der außenpolitischen Dimension der deutschen Nationalstaatsgründung beschäftigen will, wird dieses Quellenwerk unentbehrlich finden."

Frank Lorenz Müller in sehepunkte 7 (2007), Nr. 9 [15.09.2007]

[full review]

Historische Zeitschrift

"Dieser Blick auf Deutschland aus britischer Perspektive bietet einen beeindruckenden Spiegel der Ereignisse und zeigt Aspekte, die in „innerdeutschen“ Quellen üblicherweise fehlen. Somit liefert er nicht nur weitreichende Erkenntnisse über die Sichtweise (und großenteils auch die Mentalität) britischer Diplomaten, sondern in vielen Facetten auch Neues zu den Ereignissen und Vorgängen selbst. Dafür und für die Sorgfalt in der Auswahl und Präsentation ist den Editoren zu danken."

Wolfgang Elz in Historische Zeitschrift, Vol 288 (2009), pp 471-4

"Inhaltlich lassen sich die Berichte nicht leicht zusammenfassen, weil zu viele verschiedene Materien angesprochen werden; das geht hin bis zu fast Skurrilem, etwa wenn der Berliner Legationssekretär Walsham anbietet, Erbswurst nach London zu senden, damit man im Kriegsministerium prüfen könne, was den preußischen Soldaten als „Eiserne Ration“ mitgegeben werde (S. 176f.). Neben den genannten etlichen Berichten zu außenpolitischen Entwicklungen bilden aber die Prozesse der staatlichen Vereinheitlichung nach 1871 auf den verschiedensten Ebenen und deren Aufnahme in Deutschland nach 1871, die gegenläufigen Vorgänge im Rahmen des Kulturkampfs und später des Sozialistengesetzes, die in den kleineren Ländern des Reiches sehr unterschiedlich aufgenommen und von den betreffenden Diplomaten auch ganz unterschiedlich eingeschätzt wurden [.] Insofern bieten die Berichte der britischen Beobachter aufschlussreiches Material, weil sie mit der Außenperspektive auf die Vorgänge in Deutschland häufig resümierend, wenn auch keinesfalls einheitlich die entsprechenden Vorgänge und Abläufe schildern. [...] Editorisch halten die Herausgeber die hohen Standards, die die Vorgängerreihe gesetzt hat. Es wäre nicht nur deswegen höchst wünschenswert, wenn das DHI nach dem Erscheinen des zweiten Bandes dieser Reihe künftig auch noch die Lücke für die Jahre 1866–1870 schließen würde, weil dann eine geschlossene Überlieferung für die Jahrzehnte zwischen dem Wiener Kongress und dem Ende des 19.Jahrhundertsvorliegen würde."

Wolfgang Elz in Historische Zeitschrift, Vol 306 (2018), pp 242-4